Monday March 10, 2014
The Library from a Professor's Point of View
There is no questioning the value of Roesch Library in providing assistance for students’ research. Students use the library’s resources daily; for some, it is the only place to get any work done. Naturally, resources in the library affect the quality of work submitted to professors. The library and coursework are intrinsically linked. So, how important is the level of interaction between professors and library databases? Somewhat bittersweet, this is my senior year at UD, and I am preparing to move on to a Master’s Degree in Library Science next year. So heading into my final semester, this topic became incredibly interesting to me. I decided to speak with a professor to get an idea how important the library can be to students. According to Dr. John McCombe, professor of English, the library is a required component and the beginning point of any research project. This is the attitude he pushes in his classes.
As a professor of multiple degrees of English—from freshman composition classes to 600- level graduate courses—Dr. McCombe realizes that the library should be marketed to an appropriate level according to students’ abilities. Of course, there are basic and advanced ways to use the library’s systems. Knowledge of these systems comes over time, after many applications to research. So whether a freshman class is scanning a general database for information on a topic, or an upper-level course is using more specific databases, the library is still a good place to be working towards a project. Dr. McCombe has been more intentionally pushing these resources. Over his years of teaching, he has seen the value of spending a class period in the library. In research projects, students prove that they are learning what the library has to offer. He thinks it is important for younger students to familiarize with available programs as it only develops and enhances these skills for later use.
Perhaps the most essential quality in using the library for research is in determining reliable sources. Being able to find resources is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to doing research. The truth is that a simple database search could turn up a thousand results, but only a small percentage of these articles might be useful. This can be the difference between a scholarly article and a book review. This is a thought that is echoed in many research-driven courses I have experienced. Professors insist on finding many more sources than necessary and narrowing those titles to the most useful, as opposed to selecting the first five results. Choosing the best articles for you will help formulate a better argument rather than tailoring your argument to fit sources.
One of the most important comments Dr. McCombe made was that fellow faculty members should not grow frustrated if a student has difficulty with a research assignment. He stressed that students might be having problems because it truly is difficult. Databases are constantly changing and to take full advantage of them, one needs to spend a lot of time with the resources or meet with an expert at the library for assistance. Librarians are quite up-to-date with resources, and Dr. McCombe urged students to turn to them for advice.
Roesch Library is an incredibly useful tool for students and faculty alike. You may be surprised by how often professors use the exact same resources. For his own personal use, Dr. McCombe prefers the MLA Bibliography. Truly, professors do not assign research projects they would not be able to do themselves. We should all learn to use these materials to get the most out of what the library offers.
- Joseph Wooley '14, Information Desk Student Worker